Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cornell Medical College Meeting on Mayor Bloomberg's Proposed Large-size Soda Ban

I just attended a wonderful workshop at Cornell University in advance of Mayor Bloomberg’s large soda ban hearings. It was sponsored by the Cornell Medical College, and the panelists were:  Carol Parker-Duncanson, the Nutrition and Health Program Leader for Cornell Cooperative Extension; bestseller Louis Aronne, M.D., clinical professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College where the Comprehensive Weight Control Program; David Just, Associate Professor at Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and co-director of the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs. They all made great points.

Ms. Parker-Duncanson remarked how portions of food, as well as cups and plate sizes, both at restaurants and dining ware stores has increased. She pointed out that, when given the opportunity to eat more, most people do just that. She agrees that the low cost of fast food, increasing portion sizes, and often unrealistic or unwanted sizes of people on magazine covers are factors in the rising obesity rate. She favors the ban as a means to reduce the accessibility of large portions and to change social norms.

Dr. Aronne said that in 1962 the percent of  overweight and obese adults in the United States was 45.8% and by 2008 nit was 73.9%. The biggest increase was seen between 1987 and 2005. He pointed out that even athletes, like NFL players, have seen a huge increase in weight by position between 1972 and today. He spoke about how instances in child and adolescent diabetes are increasing. He said that hormones in fat have been shown to increase rates of: cancers; non-alcoholic liber disease such as cirrhosis and steatosis; gall bladder disease; cataracts, phlebitis; osteoarthritis; gout, and more. These hormones have been shown to affect the hypothalamus, interfering with normal levels of hunger,. The person eats more, thereby damaging the hypothalamus more and the cycle continues. [See]

He spoke about another study where 335 subjects were given the same lunch with varied soda size. The ones who had the opportunity to drink a larger portion size did drink it, and did not increase the amount of food that they ate. [See]

Professor Just said that portion sizes have been increasing, and not enough small portion sizes are available. This, he thinks, may be more effective than a large-size soda ban. He thinks that social trends must change. He pointed out that often one more dollar will increase the mount of a beverage by 80%, so the financial incentive for large-size soda beverages huge. He said that studies consistently show that people who are given large portions of food eat more. [See and]

I enjoy my Diet Coke, but could not dream of having a Big Gulp size of it, at least at one sitting. I believe that the ban is a good idea. I can only think that these large soda sizes are good if they are economical for a financially distressed large family to share. I do think, like the economist thinks, that more is needed such as a greater array of healthier sizes and varied, affordable beverage and food choices. Social trends must change as well. This is also a good article on soda size.

Here is a later New York Times article on this: 

My third book, Pocket Guide to Fitness, is available on and If you look up my name on those Web sites, you will find my other books The Boy in a Wheelchair and Life, Work and Play: Poems and Short Stories. These two books are on my Web site and like, if you so see fit, my book page at 

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